Champion Joey Chestnut celebrates with announcer George Shea after winning the 105th Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest with a total of 76 hot dogs and buns on Sunday in New York City. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
July 4 (UPI) -- Joey Chestnut chowed down a record 76 hot dogs in 10 minutes for his 14th title and surpassing his record by one last year as Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest returned outdoors on Coney Island in Brooklyn, N.Y., Sunday after it went inside during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
Chestnut, 37, of San Jose, Calif., captured the mustard belt by dwarfing the 18-man field with Jeffrey Esper, 46, of Oxford, Mass., second with 50.
Michelle Lesco, 36, of Tucson, Ariz., won the women's category with 30 3/4 hot dogs, earning the pink belt. Second-place finisher Sarah Rodriguez had a personal best with 24 hot dogs. Defending champion Miki Sudo of Las Vegas, the 37-year-old seven-time defending champion who ate a record 48.5 hot dogs last year, sat out because she's pregnant.
The 105th annual Fourth of July event, televised by ESPN, took place at Maimonides Park in Brooklyn with special sections set up for unvaccinated fans in pods. The home of the Brooklyn Cyclones is one block from the traditional location at Surf and Stillwell avenues in front of the iconic Nathan's Famous storefront.
Chestnut had eaten 12 hot dogs in the first minute and had a 10-dog lead over 3 minutes. At the halfway point, he had devoured 48 hotdogs.
"It felt great," Chestnut said afterward. "I started slowing down at 1:06 and they kept pushing me. They didn't give up on me.
Chestnut first won his first Nathan's world championship in 2007, dethroning six-time defending champion Takeru Kobayashi. Since then, the only time he lost was 2015, which was won by Matt Stonie.
In 2001, Kobayashi ate 50 hot dogs and buns -- doubling the previous record. He hasn't competed since 2009 due to a refusal to sign an exclusive deal with Major League Eating.
Sonja "The Black Widow" Thomas, 51, of Alexandria, Va., owns the women's record with 45 and holds the only other titles, 2011 to 2013, than Sudo but was not in the field of 10 women.
"It is an amazing feeling," Lesco said. "Miky is one of my best friends. ... I was doubting myself a little bit."
In 1916, Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker opened a nickel hot dog stand on Coney Island with a $300 loan from two friends. It's still there at Surf and Stillwell.
"It is encouraging to hold this event live for fans, who last year were unable to celebrate July 4 as they traditionally do," said James Walker, Nathan's senior vice president of restaurants. "Next year, we hope to return to the corner of Surf and Stillwell avenues, where we have held this event for decade after decade."